The United States women’s national soccer team has been quite successful in recent years. In total, they have taken home four Olympic gold medals and won three Women’s World Cup titles. The numbers they’ve put up in recent years have been impressive, including their compensation. In 2015, a year in which they won the World Cup, the team generated $2 million. So why did five women on the team file a lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year? Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the men raked in $9 million in 2014—a year in which they failed to make it past the second stage of the World Cup.
When examining this situation, it is important to look at the overall argument before applying it to the athletic world. We live in a society where many argue that oppression remains prevalent, and many cite pay inequality as evidence of this.
People claim that wage gaps are common in the workplace, while studies point to an earnings gap between women and their male counterparts. These two terms, although used interchangeably, are very different. A wage gap suggests that one party is simply being paid less for the same amount of experience, hours worked, work ethic and experience as their counterpart. An earnings gap, on the other hand, takes into account more information, such as employment history and differences in occupation.
The athletic world is no exception to this. There have been many cases involving payment discrepancies amongst professional athletes in the past. The women’s national team is one of the most recent cases that’s receiving a lot of national attention.
One of the reasons this story is so widely publicized is because of the people that have filed the lawsuit. Forward Alex Morgan, midfielder Carli Lloyd, midfielder Megan Rapinoe, defender Becky Sauerbrunn and goalkeeper Hope Solo—who is no longer with the team—are the prominent players that took the initiative.
Inequality of payment in athletics differs slightly from traditional office job’s payment inequality claims. Frequently, salaries depend soley on the revenue that the teams and their leagues bring in, with no prejudice against a certain gender.
The U.S. Soccer Federation issued a statement earlier this year acknowledging that the national women’s soccer team was indeed composed of some of the most talented and successful players in the sport.
Of course, there are many factors, though, that could play into these potential wage gaps amongst the two genders. Men’s soccer brings in twice as much revenue in the form of ticket sales than the women, according to the federation. If this is indeed the case, then the U.S. Soccer Federation would be losing revenue by paying the women more.
This trend can be seen in a number of different sports. The Women’s National Basketball Association receives not nearly as much attention as the National Basketball Association does, and there are no well-known or publicized women’s football teams.
In addition to pointing out the differences in revenue, the Federation also noted that 25 of the 40 highest earning U.S. soccer players between 2012-15 were indeed women. It is important to note, however, that payment methods for these teams are different. The women tend to get higher base salaries and decent bonuses when they win a game. The men, on the other hand, get large bonuses for every game they play and massive bonuses when they win, though this may be due to the significantly higher income that the team brings in.
While there remains plenty of gray area in this argument, one can logically see that there is not necessarily a gender issue here. The women may have a more popular and successful team among professional U.S. soccer, but the women’s overall league is significantly less popular internationally than that that of the men’s.
Since this is how the paychecks are determined, there should not be as much of an issue amongst the teams.